The Confessions presents itself as a book about God
Augustine on the other side of the spectrum though, because of the power of God, believes that humans have the ability to act graciously on their own without it being such strife. When he is talking of the true love of God and deliverance, he belives that if one was to think too hard or be so critical of the beliefs, like Platonists practice, humans will miss what is supposed to be the meaning of it all. Augustine reveals that, “In them no one listens to the voice which says Come to me all you that labour. They disdain his teaching because he is gentle and humble of heart.
For you have hidden all this from the wise and revealed it to little children,”4 signifying that little children, at their purest form could understand the revelations of God better than the philosophers, or wise, who have been studying for years. It is easy to think that young children could be solemnly devoted to praising God, more so than any elder. It is only when one gets older in life that they begin to have such innate questions about everything and find it so hard to believe in things which they can not physically address by at least one of their given senses.
For Plato, the nature of the relation is also the desire the philosopher has to share and educate the less knowledgeable, which results in a tug to return to the city where he will now know the divinity of all things. The relation would not be complete without the process of adjusting to the darkness and the understandable ignorance of those in the city who have not experienced the knowledge of the philosopher. This process is described in the allegory of the cave, the cave being the city, the fire or sun being the enlightenment, and the man being the philosopher.
After the man acquires intelligence he can now “remember that there are two kinds of disturbances of the eyes, stemming from two sources – when they have been transferred from light to darkness and when they have been transferred from darkness to light. “5 For Augustine, because humans are radically free, they all are capable at any time of attaining enlightenment. For Plato humans are not radically free, some are just good thinkers and philosophizers but even they can not attain the wisdom of God into their lives at times. This is the key to the philosopher’s knowledge.
He will now be able to understand others and consider: “if he held that these same things happen to a soul too, whenever he saw one that is confused and unable to make anything out, he wouldn’t laugh without reasoning but would go on to consider whether, come from a brighter life, it is in darkness for want of being accustomed, or whether, going from greater lack of learning to greater brightness, it is dazzled by the greater brilliance. ” 6 This understanding of others and not condemning those who have not benefited by the same experiences is the qualities of the philosopher who is integrated into the city.
Augustine expands this image of the experience of the light when in Book IV he gives the example, “I had my back to the light and my face was turned towards the things which stood in the light, were themselves in darkness”7 quite relating to the allegory of the cave. This is applicable in today’s society because we all experience different things and are enlightened by our experiences. If only we could understand that it is hard to realize the truth and as equally hard to go back to a situation where you know the underlying purpose.
If we all could understand that not everyone is going to be on the same intellectual level, perhaps there would not be so many disputes in the world. The allegory of the cave turns a man into a philosopher, and in doing so describes the enduring nature of the relation between the philosopher and the process of understanding the world around him. The Good to Plato, in conclusion, is fundamental as it creates the eternal forms, allows them to be grasped by mind, compels the ordering of the state in its representation and engenders justice in the process by those who have come to know it.
Since that Good itself is explicitly considered to be beyond the knowledge of the interlocutors the investigation is re-directed specifically to examine the behaviour of the Good. Socrates uses the sun as a demonstrative device, likening it to the Good and then showing how each functions respectively within its own realm. In Confessions, Augustine does make it clear what God is not; he spends some time ridiculing those who believed that God is nothing more than a huge spirit in heaven shaped like a man.
It is not hard to discover that Augustine’s concept of God is not the clearest, but that it involves some idea that God is everywhere at once, yet in a way that transcends common sense ideas of a three dimensional world. He also spends some time on the nature of God’s infallibility, specifically explaining why this is so, and even addresses the question (although, in my opinion, unsatisfactorily) of what came before God. More familiarly, Augustine also sees God as an entity that teaches people by letting them make mistakes, and as an entity that is always prepared to accept a believer once they find their way to Christianity.
1 Augustine, Confessions, Book VII, 21, 156. Pine-Coffin, R. S. Saint Augustine Confessions. England: Penguin Books, 1961. p. 156. 2 Augustine, Confessions. Book VII, 21 ; trans. Pine-Coffin, R. S. p. 156 3 Augustine, Confessions. Book VII, 21 ; trans. Pine-Coffin, R. S. p. 156 4 Augustine, Confessions. Book VII, 21 ; trans. Pine-Coffin, R. S. p. 156 5 Plato, Republic, 518a. Bloom, Alan. The Republic of Plato. Second Edition. United States:Perseus Book Group, 1991. p. 196.